AUTO INDUSTRY

New safety technology

Honda Motor Co. recently held demonstrations of experimental safety technology designed to prevent its vehicles from colliding with other vehicles, pedestrians and motorcycles.

Embedded computer chips on vehicles, in motorcycles and in a pedestrian’s cell phone can communicate their respective whereabouts and detect if they are on a collision course. If so, warnings will show up on the vehicle’s screen or the phone. If that doesn’t work, the vehicle is programmed to make an emergency stop.

Honda researchers demonstrated a range of projects in prototype stage at their research and development center in Raymond, Ohio.

The advanced technologies are part of a larger initiative to enable cars to avoid accidents autonomously even if a driver does not take evasive actions. There were 32,000 traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2011, said Chuck Thomas, chief safety engineer for Honda R&D Americas.

The vehicle-to-pedestrian system works through a screen in the car that picks up a signal from the phone of a person approaching the intersection. The chip in the car talks to the software in the phone to identify where the pedestrian is, his direction and speed and whether he is listening to music or is otherwise distracted. The car’s screen flashes a picture of the pedestrian, and if the person keeps moving, the screen warns the driver to brake. If the driver does not react, the car will apply the brakes.

Similarly, the vehicle-to-motorcycle system presents a picture on the car’s screen of an approaching motorcycle and if a collision appears imminent, warns the driver to brake and initiates a hard stop if required. The technology could be in production by the end of the decade, said Jim Keller, Honda chief engineer for advanced technology research.

“Our goal is not just to reduce the severity of accidents, but avoid them altogether,” said Art St. Cyr, vice president of product planning for American Honda.

Eight Honda vehicles are participating in the connected-vehicle safety pilot program launched in Ann Arbor, Mich., a year ago by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The program, which has been extended by six months, is generating data to help the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulate connected-vehicle technology in the future.

“Advanced safety is fundamental to what it means to be a Honda,” said Rick Schostek, a senior vice president with Honda North America.

Other initiatives include preventing fatal crashes caused by distracted driving. Of those, only 38 percent are attributed to calls and texting, said Steven Feit, chief engineer for infotainment technology. The bulk are daydreaming and other reasons.

— Detroit Free Press

RETAIL

Walgreen sued for prices

Walgreen Co., which has Akron and Ohio stores, was accused in Missouri of allegedly charging customers higher prices at the register than the prices displayed on store shelves. Missouri Atty. Gen. Chris Koster filed a civil lawsuit against the Deerfield, Ill.-based drugstore chain for a pattern of false and misleading advertising and pricing. The state said overcharges were found on about 20 percent of purchased items.

— St. Louis Post-Dispatch